Procurement: Armored Trucks Quickly Replacing Hummers


July 5, 2007: The U.S. Army has decided buy a fleet of 17,700 MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. There are already over two thousand of these vehicles in use, mainly by bomb disposal troops, and units operating in areas almost certain to have lots of roadside bombs. People in these vehicles are much less likely to be killed or injured if they encounter a roadside bomb. Thus if all the troops who encountered these bombs were in a MRAP, casualties would be about 65 percent less. Currently, about two-thirds of all casualties in Iraq are from roadside bombs. Thus the army and marines want to use these vehicles in areas most likely to have bombs, and reduce overall casualties by about a third.

But this will be expensive. The bomb resistant vehicles cost about five times more than armored hummers or trucks. Thus the 17,700 bomb resistant vehicles will cost about $13 billion dollars. But these vehicles would prevent about a hundred troops a month from getting killed or wounded.

The most common of these bomb resistant vehicles are called Cougars. The Cougar, and larger Buffalo, are more expensive to operate, and less flexible than the hummer. The Cougar and Buffalo vehicles use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components mines and roadside bombs. The bulletproof Cougars and Buffalos are built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans.

The 7-12 ton Cougar also has a version called JERRV (joint explosive ordnance disposal rapid response Vehicles). Basically, JERRV is a 12 ton truck that is hardened to survive bombs and mines. The Cougar can get engineers into combat situations where mines, explosives or any kind of obstacle, have to be cleared. The Cougar comes in two basic versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six wheel one can carry 16. The trucks cost about $730,000 each, fully equipped.

Several hundred of the current fleet MRAPs are Buffalos. This is a 23 ton vehicle, which is actually a heavily modified Peterbuilt Mac-10 truck. Costing $740,000 each, they have added armor protection to keep out machine-gun bullets.

The Cougar is more expensive to maintain and operate than the hummer. The large number of roadside bombs are a situation unique to Iraq. Once American forces are out of Iraq, the military would not need all these MRAPs. But vehicles like the Cougar and Buffalo are popular with many NGOs, and nations that have problems with rebel movements. So the U.S. could sell most of them, at used vehicle prices, to those buyers. Otherwise, they could have to be put in storage, because the higher operating costs, compared to hummers, would make for a highly embarrassing issue in the mass media.

It will take two years to manufacture the entire 17,700 MRAP vehicles, which will be from many manufacturers. But all will basically be large trucks, with lots of armor, configured to provide maximum protection from explosions.




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